Reconstruction of Christchurch

I’m a Geography teacher. I have spent the last dozen years teaching students about natural disasters. Teaching them that disasters are not just one off events, that a major part of understanding a disaster is the reconstruction afterwards. Yet, today I was shocked by what I saw in Christchurch.

I like to think I am fairly on top of what is happening in the world currently. I constantly read news online, I scour social media for any storied that might be relevant for our learners. Heck, I’m even connected online with plenty of people that live in Christchurch. My in-laws were involved in the Quake. Injured, lost belongings but realistically lucky compared to many others. They have told me that I don’t understand what it was really like. Today I know that is the truth. Continue reading


Empowering Learners Through Common Language

It’s hard but that’s okay because you keep trying and then it becomes easier and then it becomes fun. That’s how you learn.

This cool little quote is from my 5 year old daughter after ballet practice yesterday. Apart from the glaringly obvious growth mindset that she has at the moment, it made me start thinking about how my students would describe how they learn.

At HPSS we have our Learning Design Model that was developed out of our deep exploration of the New Zealand Curriculum. This is the language that we use to describe how learning occurs.

HPSS Learning Design Model

HPSS Learning Design Model

We envision learning as cyclical (not circular otherwise you go nowhere – in Di Cavallo‘s words!) rather than linear. Continue reading

An Alphabet of Inspiration

One of the great points I got out of Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon was that of your creative genealogy. Who are the people that inspire you, whose ideas have added to your creativity; whose ideas can be seen remixed in the work that you do?

So here is my attempt at a creative genealogy in the form of an A-Z of people inspiring me on twitter lately (with some tired Friday night liberties taken on how it works): Continue reading

Why inquire into Design Thinking for my eFellowship?

This year I am part of Core Education’s eFellowship program. The purpose of this scholarship is to “inspire transformational practice through inquiry.” For my inquiry I am looking to explore Design Thinking which, for those who read my blog or follow me on twitter, is something that I have been passionately using lately. This year for me is a chance to put a critical eye on its use.

At our first meeting of the year in late January, we got to explore the purpose of our inquiry and here is what I managed to generate:


Through reflection on this, more reading and a skype session with Louise Taylor who is in charge of our research from Core Education, I have put together the following plan for my inquiry: Continue reading

My Advice for BTs


Comic from XKCD

As we kick into gear of a new school year here in New Zealand, I often reflect back on what it was like starting off in those first couple of years of teaching. If there is one lesson, one piece of advice I would give to any Beginning Teacher to help them survive and ultimately thrive, it is this:

Get to know the people that really run the school. The receptionists, student services, grounds staff, the IT and other technicians, the Principal’s PA, the tea lady, Librarians etc.

These people are the oft-forgotten glue that hold a school together. If you can get onside with them, your job will become much, much easier. Continue reading

Student Echo Chambers

Yesterday I wrote about breaking out of my echo chamber, so of course my thoughts then turned to my students. Are our students operating in echo chambers and should this be something we worry about?

Well yes, I believe this is something to be concerned about and here’s why. Deeper understanding is developed through:

  • encountering multiple perspectives
  • confronting cognitive dissonance
  • empathising with situations different to our own

If students are constantly interacting with people with similar opinions to themselves, how are they going to do any of the above? Continue reading

Shattering the Echo Chamber

For some time I have spoken about the value of reaching outside your echo chamber to ensure you keep growing. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we have been living in a privileged bubble with unheard of resources of time and space as we got started. Claire Amos realised the danger of only listening to those with similar views early on and kept making a point for us to keep challenging ourselves.

I regularly try to read blogs and books that will push my thinking forward and have tried to break out of the educational echo chamber that is my online and face to face PLN. What this weekend has just proven to me, however, is that I have merely dipped out of my echo chamber every now and then.

This weekend, I completely shattered my echo chamber. Kiwi Foo is an invite only unconference of people from across many different fields and sectors. From Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon I was with over 150 of the most intelligent people I have ever met. The workshops ranged from specific topics such as Conspiracy Theories of Aotearoa (you really should follow Matthew Dentith) to wider ideas such as how to make the most of conferences or if NZ had an aim, what would it be? These workshops stretched my brain but it was the discussions in between that completely blew my brain.

CC image from Prairie Kittin that matches my brain at Kiwi Foo

CC image from Prairie Kittin that matches my brain at Kiwi Foo


  • Design Thinking with Start Up investors, major corporates and social change innovators;
  • education with Researchers that I have read for years, Principals and teachers that I have either connected with online or not ever met before, engineers, bankers, scientists and entrepreneurs;
  • ethics with journalists, professors and social enterprise experts
  • meaningful societal change with politicians, designers, web developers, festival organisers and entrepreneurs

meant that my brain was pushed incredibly hard and it is taking me a few days to really process what happened over the weekend. To those who I chatted with, made quasi-plans with, ate next to, swam with or played Werewolf with: Thank You!

To Nat and Jenine that make the incredible world of Kiwi Foo occur, thank you for truly shattering my echo chamber. I will not be going back to a mere dabble in outside ideas. I am now going to be actively seeking voices from within education that challenge my ideas and many, many voices from outside education to see what we can learn from each other.

p.s. written in 28 minutes for #28daysofwriting so excuse my still mind fuddled ramble

What is the Essence of Your School?

Thanks Jo for this image from #EdJourney by Grant Lichtman

Thanks Jo for this image from #EdJourney by Grant Lichtman

In #EdJourney, Grant Lichtman discusses schools’ value proposition. That is, what your school offers compared to other schools. Each school sets out their vision – implemented to different levels by different schools, some completely through all staff members, some just believed by Senior Leadership. The Value Proposition, as I understand it, is about what you actually do compared to what you say you will do (much like Espoused Theory vs Theory in Use by Chris Argyris). It essentially says that the practices of a school tells their community they really value. If we asked parents what their son or daughter gains by going to your school rather than the one down the road, this is the Value Proposition.

This reminded me of a challenge from Ewan McIntosh at the end of last year to capture the essence of what our school was all about in just 1 sentence. Continue reading

Natural Ecosystem of Learning

Schools that recognize the need to prepare their students for a changing world are knowingly or unknowingly in the process of converting from an engineered process to a model based on the laws that govern natural ecosystems

Grant Lichtman, #EdJourney p210

In #EdJourney, Grant Lichtman makes the link between schools that are effectively innovating and how natural ecosystems operate. He found that the schools demonstrating transformative learning were:

  • more dynamic – moving far away from one size fits all
  • more adaptable – functioning like outside world and adaptable to future change
  • more permeable – expanding learning beyond the four walls
  • more creative – moving past consumption of knowledge
  • self-correcting – based upon empathy, mindfulness and creativity

Using this, Grant proposes a model that shifts from Assembly-Line Education to a Learning Ecosystem. Continue reading